To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence. - Sun Tzu

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The incompatibility of Christianity and Social Change: On the failure of the Peace Martyrs during the Bush era

This is a series of thoughts, hypotheses, and semi-speculative ideas I have been mulling regarding the mismatch of words and deeds that seems to affect those peace and social justice advocates who apparently are such because of their Christianity. To be sure, they are, at the core, ineffective because to effect real change would threaten their class privilege; but I am interested in the specific mechanisms of their psychology and reasoning that cause them to appear to be the most dedicated activists while actually being some of the least-effective.

Christianity believes that the physical world is not the real world. In the face of infinity, what do a few decades of life matter?The actions of a person matter only in regards to their effect on the afterlife, with good actions rewarded with infinite bliss and bad actions punished with infinite torment. Tyranny and Christianity have been allies for over 1500 years because tyrants care only about rulership over the real world, which is of no concern to Christians; thus they divide up the real and the imaginary between them by tricking the masses into believing in an infinite afterlife instead of improving their lot in life by overthrowing tyranny. "Religion is the opiate of the masses"

Christianity believes that everything is the work of a magical sky wizard, although people have free will; however, Christians also illogically attribute purely human-caused events to divine intervention. Thus charity, which is expressely advocated in the Bible in the form of Jesus telling people to impoverish themselves helping others and to give /as an individual/ to other /individuals/ is advocated, but organizing for change that would eliminate the necessity of charity is not mentioned, and is probably futile since to them divine will is the only cause of change.

Peace- and social justice- activists who are activists because of their Christianity are motivated idologically by "mercy," the idea of empaty for those who suffer. That doesn't necessarily mean improving the economic and social conditions in order to alleviate suffering- it just means that if there's suffering, we should be upset. The ideological closeness to charity is obvious. Successfully ending suffering is not necessary; the highest activity of a Christian social justice activist is spending time in jail, suffering for the meek as Jesus suffered for humanity. And the more they suffer, the more humanity is redeemed! So in a great act of transubstantiation, what should be considered failure (namely suffering, imprisonment, and death) is turned into victory.

During the last decade, we witnessed the largest anti-war movement perhaps in world history fail to end the war to which it was opposed (although to its credit it may have reduced its length and severity, and may have prevented other wars). Peace Martyrs, those people who think that opposing suffering is sufficient regardless of whether or not that suffering continues, played no small part in that failure, because they are more concerned with self-flagellation and publicly weeping for those who suffer than they are with designing and implementing strategies that would actually end suffering. Thus the entire anti-war movement was, with authoritarian Communists at the helm, reduced almost entirely to symbolic marches and protests which the government could, and did, safely ignore.

In 2008 a president was elected on an image of progressiveness. It was always a sham, as could easily be seen by his lukewarm platform at any point during his campaign. But Christianity is an elitist religion, in that it believes that only action by those 'above' can affect the world- whether God, a Messiah, or over-empowered politicians- as opposed to a populist ideology, one that believes the general population is or should be in charge of its own destiny. Thanks in part to Chrisitan ideology, the anti-war movement became enraptured with electing another pro-war politician.

In 2009 a coup in the Central American country of Honduras was opposed, but not acted against, by Christian social justice activists. Despite the existence of long-standing, professional, and practically institutional Christian social justice organizations which have been doing solidarity with oppressed Central American people for decades, essentially no action was taken against the coup. A boycott of the Honduran textile and produce industries, which are largely owned by the oligarchical business class behind the coup, would likely have had a significant impact on the situation, and the strategy should be well-known because of its employment against the South African Apartheid regime. But no action to that, or any, effect was taken by these organizations or by these people as individuals. The culprit is likely Christianity, which does not mandate success, but only the appearance of being against suffering; and which, being elitist, does not believe that people can really change the world without the leadership of divinely-appointed heroes.

For people who are concerned with the real world instead of the imaginary, suffering can only be alleviated through radical change in the economic and social conditions of oppressed people, by organizing to take direct action without the interference of intermediaries such as self-appointed leaders, busybodies, and religious cults. Christianity, which only advocates charity, can only be an impediment to real change.